AUSTRIA IS INSISTING that fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was not on board Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane, which made a stopover in Vienna during the night.
The plane “landed around 9:40pm from Moscow, passports were checked and contrary to rumours that have circulated, Edward Snowden was not on board,” interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP.
The plane was however not searched, its passengers simply going through a passport check, he said.
“There was no legal basis for a search,” Grundboeck explained.
Bolivian officials said earlier that Morales’s plane had to be diverted to Vienna after France, Italy and Portugal denied it entry into their airspace.
The South American country’s foreign minister David Choquehuanca cited “unfounded rumours that Mr Snowden may have been on board the aircraft” for the diversion.
Grundboeck said the plane made the stop in Vienna due to overflight issues as well technical ones.
Morales’s plane was still at Vienna airport early this morning, he added.
“At the moment the Bolivian government is working on establishing the rest of the flight route” and when the plane might leave depended on that, the spokesman said.
Morales’s stopover in Vienna happened hours after he had said his country would consider a request for political asylum if Snowden submitted one.
The Bolivian President had been on a visit to Moscow, where Snowden has been holed up in an airport transit area since June 23. He is seeking to avoid US espionage charges for revealing a vast surveillance program to collect phone and Internet data.